In Singapore’s Hort Park, Rupa Gopal meets gardening enthusiasts at the annual fair

The National Parks, Singapore organises an annual Gardener’s Day Out at the fabulous Hort Park grounds, on Alexandra Road, modelled after such outings in the West, where gardening as a hobby takes precedence over much else. Matters like mulch and slugs are as important to the green lover, as the morning newspaper, and discussed with equal dedication.

Recently, at such an event that saw showers, folks descended on the Hort Park, armed with umbrellas, hats, and picnic baskets. A plant bazaar sold plants, seedlings, seeds, fertiliser, growing mediums, pots, pest solutions and all from 9a.m. till 6 p.m. The stalls were taken by individuals, for a small fee. Young students sold small packets of seeds for a dollar. Various pulses and salad greens were in the offing. They even offered tastings of tender shoots growing in tiny plastic containers.

One of them even entered the bazaar area armed with a free pack of fertiliser, and gave them away to those who gave their details for getting a regular gardening newsletter for free!

10a.m. to 12p.m. saw the exchange of cuttings and seeds between community gardens, encouraged by the government in all localities. The tiny plots in front of HDB apartment blocks are now planted and looked after by groups, and guarded zealously by senior citizens.

Talks and demos were organised through the day—on epiphytes, cooking demos (from garden to kitchen), workshops for kids and adults in pot decoration, and the most popular—vegetable harvest—for a small fee of 3$ in which the child and parent could go into a vegetable plot and gather as many vegetables and greens they could carry. Brinjal, lady’s finger, various beans, pumpkin, bitter gourd, gourd, spinach, salad greens... A whole week’s supply was happily carried away by many.

The exquisite expanse of the Hort Park with its huge water terraces, greenhouses, and tropical gardens, butterfly enclosure, and children’s garden is the perfect lung-space for leisurely walks and fervent gardeners. On such days, there is a happy prospect of people turning from serial plant killer to happy urban gardener. A space-starved nation is striving so hard to achieve a green balance. India, with its vast spaces, and varied climes, can be a daily 'gardener’s day out', if only it tries, just a little.